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Palm Beach Film Festival Keeps Locals In Focus

Peter Gallagher
Former Seminole Tribal Chairman James Billie is the subject of the documentary film "Wrestling Alligators."

Cinefiles are zooming in to South Florida for the 22nd Annual Palm Beach International Film Festival.

The five-day event features films from around the globe. But festival president Jeff Davis says there is a South Florida focus.

“We showcase and highlight local filmmakers and stories,” said Davis. 

The festival gives scholarships and technical support to local filmmakers, according to Davis.

“Whether that be financial aid, technical support, or sometimes just giving students a hug and saying, 'You guys are doing a great job!' ” he said.

One of this year’s offerings is "Wrestling Alligators," the story of larger-than-life former Seminole Tribal Chairman James Billie, considered the father of Indian gaming.

Credit Peter Haden
Peter Haden
Moviegoers prepare for the South Florida premiere of the documentary 'Wrestling Alligators' at the Palm Beach International Film Festival in West Palm Beach on Mar. 29, 2017.

Vernon Oster, of Jensen Beach, spent much of his youth at his parents’ hunting camp adjacent to the Big Cypress reservation. 

“He’s probably one of the top Native American leaders probably in all history,” Jensen said.

Howard and Rosalee Gordon came from Weston to see the film.

“We drove almost an hour and a half to get here,” said Howard Gordon. “It was well worth the trip to find out the story of Chief Billie. He seems like a hell of a guy and has done miracles for the tribe.”

The Palm Beach International Film Festival runs from through Sunday. For more information, visit: www.pbifilmfest.org.

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